Turning to Anticrystals to Better Understand Materials
For many experiments and studies, scientists will consider ideal conditions to keep things simple. As reality is not ideal, sometimes adaptations will be made to the research to approach reality, and make the results more informative. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania however are suggesting that for many materials, instead of starting with a perfect crystal and adding defects, it would be better to start with an anticrystal, and add order.
Crystals are materials with well-ordered internal structures, whereas anticrystals are the opposite and are completely disordered. Realistic materials would be on the spectrum between these two extremes, and everything has many properties determined by their internal structures. According to the Pennsylvania researchers, many materials would be better described from the starting point of anticrystals with added order, than perfect crystals with added disorder. The researchers liken it to a deck of cards shuffled once being closer to a totally shuffled deck, than a totally ordered one.
As many properties of materials are determined by their structures, this research could have many great impacts, including leading to better plastics, glasses, and metal alloys. For example, shrinking the crystalline patterns of steel makes the alloy stronger, and this makes the anticrystal a better starting point for describing it.
Source: University of Pennsylvania